Embrace immigrant history, technology: Davis of California


Tue, Jun 29, 2004 - Page 3

Gray Davis, the former governor of California, yesterday encouraged Taiwan to embrace its immigrant history and also foster strong research centers.

"America, like Taiwan, has benefited greatly from immigration," said Davis, citing the diversity of California as a special strength of the state.

Without the hard work of immigrants, Davis said, California could not have become, taken alone, the fifth-largest economy in the world.

"[Immigrants are] used to hard work, they're not afraid of adversity and they're not asking for special treatment. They just want a chance to work hard, and create a better life for themselves and for their families," he said.

Davis made the remarks during a speech at National Taiwan University called California's Diversity and its Impact on Education.

According to Davis, poor and immigrant children benefit from strong education systems.

Calling a good education a "passport to a better life," Davis said he had fought for better and more accessible public education during his time as governor.

"And any time you shut someone out, you have to pay for it in the future," he said.

Maintaining a robust economy is impossible with a failing education system, Davis said. He said that instituting broad merit-based scholarships during his term was one of his proudest achievements.

Davis spoke in favor of meritocracies, saying that they are ultimately more practical than divisive policies that favor one group of people over another.

"Over time, people will want, for their own sake, for other people to be rewarded for what they do well, because they also want to be rewarded for what they do well," he said.

According to Davis, because California has such a large immigrant community, its policies are quite tolerant. "The state is perhaps 50 years ahead of the rest of the nation," Davis said.

California also has a competitive advantage, he said, because of its 11 public and private research universities. Four centers for science and innovation that were built during Davis' term as governor serve to bring in high-tech investments, which provide a strong boost to the Californian economy.

"In 50 years, you will know the names of the products discovered in those centers," Davis said, "and they will help you and your loved ones live richer, fuller lives."

Davis quoted a piece of advice given him by Alan Greenspan, chairman of the US Federal Reserve Board: "If you want to improve the economy, invest your money in the research capabilities of your state."